Last night, a rally against police in Charlotte, NC quickly turned violent, leaving one civilian dead. I followed along with the news on Twitter, reading everything from tweets by major news outlets to self-reporting citizen journalists. It’s part of the reason I love Twitter so much – I’m able to see official breaking news stories from accounts like CNN while also reading individual’s personal stories and thoughts regarding the matter.
The more I read, the more upset I became. I reflected on all of the violent situations that I see on the news day after day. “When will it stop?” I thought to myself. It boggles my mind how within a few hours of each other, #WorldPeaceDay and #CharlotteProtest were both trending. It’s hard to believe that on a day dedicated to the absence of war and hatred, Charlotte was in a state of emergency as a result of unprecedented violence.
Unable to fully digest the current state of our nation, I took to Twitter to express myself. I tweeted:
I used the hashtag #CharlotteProtest to include my own thoughts in the sea of tweets surrounding the trending topic. With that, I locked my phone and went to bed.
When I woke up the next morning and opened Twitter, I was surprised with what I saw. My tweet had been responded to and retweeted a few times with comments suggesting which candidate to vote for in the upcoming election. My eyes widened when I saw my tweet being used in hopes of swaying other people’s political opinions, especially one that I did not particularly agree with. Note: usernames and pictures have been removed.
I was so confused as to how these people were using such a horrific act of violence as a means of pushing their political opinion onto others, particularly people they did not know. Among my many thoughts the night prior, the 2017 election was not one of them. I wondered how people could be so egotistic. How could they not be thinking about the people involved? How could they completely overlook something like this and turn it into strictly a political issue? And more importantly, in what way did my tweet support their cause?
Regardless, I’m a firm believer that everyone is entitled to their own political opinions, so I did not feel the need to fight back or argue with anyone. Instead, I tweeted back with generic responses in hopes of letting other users know that I did not think this was appropriate, and that this was by no means what my original tweet was suggesting.
Pleased with my response, I locked my phone yet again. It was only a matter of time before I was met with additional responses, one of which is no longer available – most likely because it was so offensive. Long story short, I was greeted with the post below along with a lovely message along the lines of, “ok? u posted on a public forum snowflake.”
I was furious. While I wasn’t sure what kind of responses I was hoping for, these were certainly not close. I wasn’t looking for a fight. I wasn’t looking for a reiterated political opinion shoved down my throat. I was simply stating my own intentions. I left the one response, figured there was no point in tweeting back again. However, the other (now deleted) tweet enraged me, so I responded:
I never received a response, and within a few minutes, the original tweet was deleted. I guess some people really are looking for political fights on Twitter.
It was because of this entire Twitter ordeal that I felt the need to express my thoughts on the bigger issue at hand; the incidents in Charlotte aren’t the place for politics. Sure, politics influence the overall well being of our nation and the policies in place, but the president in office has no power over the violent intentions instilled in some citizens. That will never change.
It’s still difficult for me to fathom that some individuals will use any major news story to leverage their political affiliation, but then again, this is the “land of the free.” People can say whatever they want, and this is only amplified online. Don’t get me wrong – the 2017 election is extremely important, but is a violent protest the right time to bring it up? In my opinion, absolutely not.
It’s easy to read about Charlotte and other acts of violence in our nation on the news and brush them off because they don’t impact us directly. However, I’m willing to bet that if any of those users had been in Charlotte themselves, their tweets last night would be drastically different, and probably wouldn’t contain any trace of politics.
Food for thought: think of the bigger picture before you tweet.